Ridge & Valley Charter School Featured at Recent New Jersey Charter School Association Conference

Ridge & Valley Charter School Featured at Recent New Jersey Charter School Association Conference

The New Jersey Charter School Association hosted their annual conference in Newark, NJ with a special focus on celebrating the 20 year anniversary of charter schools in New Jersey. Ridge and Valley Charter School was highlighted throughout the conference through inclusion in their slideshow as well as an invitation to participate on a panel of schools with sustainability as their focus (description below).

NJCSA Conference 2017

In addition, Dillon Uzar, a 2007 graduate of Ridge and Valley Charter School, was asked to give a speech as the “Alumni Representative” at the evening banquet of festivities. He proudly described how his education at Ridge and Valley Charter School shaped him as a person and helped him thrive academically. Dillon graduated as the valedictorian of his high school class, went on to graduate from Stevens Institute of Technology with high honors and most recently launched his own technology “startup” business.  Watch Dillon’s speech here.

As one of the original charter schools in New Jersey, RVCS prides itself on innovation in education and fulfilling its mission of educating children for a hopeful sustainable future. The school’s curriculum honors children as individuals and emphasizes personal excellence, hands-on experiential education, self-directed and outdoor learning, project-based learning, earth literacy and bioregional studies.

Educators from RVCS at New Jersey Charter Schools Conference

Education for Sustainability Panel Description

New Jersey Charter School Association Conference, October 17, 2017

As educators—and the greater society—recognizing the environmental, economic, and social challenges that will be facing future generations, preparing children to address these issues in a well informed, skillful way becomes critical. Some schools have taken up this challenge by actively focusing their programs on diverse aspects of sustainability.

Steve King, founder and former leader of the Barack Obama Green Charter High School in Plainfield, will moderate a panel of school leaders from schools that have defined their missions in terms of a range of sustainability issues.

How does economic sustainability impact our efforts to achieve a sustainable environment? How do decisions about community development and social justice affect the long-term quality of life for urban, suburban, and rural families? What is happening in science, government, and the global economy that will impact the ability of future generations to thrive?

Join us for a lively, wide-ranging discussion of sustainability in the 21st century, and learn about what some charter schools are doing to prepare students to be engaged. Panelists include:

  • Steven King, Founder, The Barack Obama Green Charter High School, Plainfield, NJ
  • Frank Mentesana, Director, EcoSpaces Education, Newark, NJ
  • Lisa Masi, Integration Guide, Ridge & Valley Charter School, Blairstown, NJ
  • Traci Pannullo, Administrator, Ridge & Valley Charter School, Blairstown, NJ
  • Connie Sanchez, Executive Director, Unity Charter School, Morristown, NJ
RVCS Featured as an Innovative & High-Performing New Jersey Charter School in NJCSA Report

RVCS Featured as an Innovative & High-Performing New Jersey Charter School in NJCSA Report

Ridge and Valley Charter School was one of just four charter schools out of 89 in the state of New Jersey to be featured in the New Jersey Charter School Association’s “20 Years of New Jersey Charter Schools: A State of the Sector Report” under the “Innovation Stories” section. The school was highlighted as a “high-performing charter school” with a “unique school model.” The report features an overview of Ridge and Valley Charter School’s ecological and sustainability mission, coupled with its rigorous expeditionary curriculum, non-traditional structures and systems and schoolwide sustainability initiatives. The report concludes that “Ridge and Valley is an innovative school that truly embodies its unique mission – providing students with a high-quality education for a hopeful, sustainable future.”

The Charter School Movement in New Jersey

The State of the Sector Report provides a comprehensive overview of the charter school movement in New Jersey reporting that “since the first public charter schools opened in New Jersey 20 years ago, the charter school sector has grown to serve approximately 50,000 students in 89 schools across every region of the state. Charter schools are located in urban centers such as Newark, Camden, and Trenton as well as in rural parts of the state including Warren, Sussex, and Cumberland Counties. In fact, charter schools serve students in 40 different cities spanning 17 counties across the Garden State. Every child, regardless of where he or she lives, deserves access to a high-quality public school education. With more than 35,000 students on waitlists for access to a high-quality seat, New Jersey families are proving that public charter schools are a valued—and desired—option in the public education landscape.”

20 Years of New Jersey Charter Schools: A State of the Sector Report

The “20 Years of New Jersey Charter Schools: A State of the Sector Report” was researched and written to provide all stakeholders (parents and families, legislators, charter schools, partners, education organizations, etc.) with important information and facts about where they’ve been, where they are, and what the future holds for charter schools in New Jersey.

Follow the link below to learn more about the achievements of Ridge and Valley Charter School and other charter schools in the state of New Jersey.

New Jersey Charter School Association – 20 Years of New Jersey Charter Schools: A State of the Sector Report

 

Upcoming Open House & Information Session Dates

Open House & Information Session Dates
Ridge and Valley Charter School will be hosting the following dates for prospective families interested in learning more about the school:

OPEN HOUSE DATES

  • Wednesday, January 10, 2018 at 8:30 am
  • Wednesday, March 21, 2018 at 8:30 am

INFORMATION SESSION DATES

  • Thursday, October 5, 2017 at 7:00 pm
  • Thursday, May 3, 2018 at 7:00 pm

If you or someone you know would like to consider RVCS as an option for your child’s education, please contact Jen Ross at 908-362-1114 to RSVP for the event.

How Children Learn Best

Children are born with an immense potential to learn, explore, connect and grow joyfully in the region and the social context in which they live. A Ridge and Valley education is an experience of emergence, wonder, support and guidance that allows young people to grow into the fullest expression of their interests, passions and joys so they become self-directed, confident, responsible and informed adults. On this journey, children build cross-discipline skills that integrate subject matter through hands-on experiential activities that activate a wide range of sensibilities, skills and awareness.

Our school encourages children to wonder, to think, to discover and to question.

About Ridge and Valley Charter School

Local community members established Ridge and Valley Charter School to pursue innovative and personal excellence oriented teaching methods within the public school system, gaining approval of the school’s charter in 2002 and opening the school for students in the 2004-2005 academic year.

Ridge and Valley Charter School is a public K-8 school of choice that provides students an education for a hopeful sustainable future. Our educational program and curriculum honors children as individuals and emphasizes personal excellence, hands-on experiential education, self-directed and outdoor learning, project-based learning, earth literacy, bioregional studies– all in the context of our 13.7 billion-year-old Universe.

RVCS is a tuition-free public school that follows NJ state education standards and testng requirements within the context of our mission.

Want to Learn More?  RSVP for our next Information Night on Thursday, October 5, 2017, at 7:00 pm by calling Jen Ross @ 908-362-111

A Unique Tier 1 Charter School in New Jersey – Ridge and Valley Charter School

A Unique Tier 1 Charter School in New Jersey – Ridge and Valley Charter School

Ridge and Valley Charter School is based on the assumption that human beings are a thread in the miraculous web of life supported by a living universe and that we as humans have a profound responsibility to respect the Earth. The school’s primary focus and mission is centered on ecological literacy and sustainability. At Ridge and Valley the children learn to make choices in their lives that promote the long-term health of the planet and, therefore, themselves. Each child is cherished and respected, and their creativity is nurtured and supported.

students at Ridge and Valley Charter school sit in a circle

The curriculum uses the universe and earth as the context for learning. Students are encouraged to develop critical thinking skills, to challenge traditional assumptions and derive new models for honoring the world around them. The innovative, progressive program is highly experiential, allowing children to learn using project-based and hands-on experiences, often set out-of-doors in the local bioregion and within multi-aged groups. The expeditionary curriculum, offering ever-expanding regional experiences, increases in complexity across the grades and provides regular opportunities for in-the-field application of skills and knowledge. Using this experiential approach, the students meet and exceed the New Jersey Student Learning Standards set by the state Board of Education.

Ridge and Valley Charter School students

The school structure is student-centered with staff referred to as “Guides” rather than teachers. Beyond all mandated state tests, learner assessment primarily consists of projects, presentations, service learning, portfolios and rubrics, rather than traditional, one-dimensional paper and pencil formats. Feedback is provided to, and created by, the students in the form of holistic student self-reflections and Guide narratives. Additionally, Ridge and Valley collects non-traditional data on mission-specific goals such as self-directed learning, social-emotional learning and expeditionary skills.

The school founders and Trustees, a group of local parents embedded in the community with grassroots organizational backgrounds, are committed to a non-hierarchical governance structure. The school leaders are considered coordinators and work by consensus building and empowerment of staff talent. This perspective is mirrored in the children’s experience where relationship building is an integral part of the program, based in the school’s formal circle governance structures. The school encourages active participation of students and parents in shaping the educational experience and strives to build a stronger community both inside the school and beyond the school walls.

Ridge and Valley Charter School solar

The mission is further modeled and expressed at the school facility through several sustainability principles and practices, including the use of previously used modular classrooms; installation of “green” carpets and linoleum floors; installation of full spectrum daylight lighting through a NJ Smart Start Buildings Grant through the NJ Clean Energy Program in 2008; solar panels for electricity production installed 2004; rain garden built in conjunction with Rutgers University in 2011 to mitigate stormwater runoff into local watersheds; rain barrels to capture roof water runoff installed in 2004; native species focus for landscaping; use of Integrated Pest Management principles; organic garden and orchard; classroom compost program; TerraCycle program to keep packaging out of the waste stream; pack in-pack out lunch program; and use of non-toxic cleaning products.

About Ridge and Valley Charter School

Local community members established Ridge and Valley Charter School to pursue innovative and personal excellence oriented teaching methods within the public school system, gaining approval of the school’s charter in 2002 and opening the school for students in the 2004-2005 academic year.

Ridge and Valley Charter School is a public K-8 school of choice that provides students an education for a hopeful sustainable future. Our educational program and curriculum honors children as individuals and emphasizes personal excellence, hands-on experiential education, self-directed and outdoor learning, project-based learning, earth literacy, bioregional studies – all in the context of our 13.7 billion-year-old Universe.

RVCS is a tuition-free public school that follows NJ state education standards and testing requirements within the context of our mission.

Want to Learn More?  RSVP for our next Information Night on Thursday, October 5th, 2017 at 7 p.m. by calling Jen Ross @ 908-362-1114

Information Night, October 5th 2017 – Ridge and Valley Charter School

Information Night, October 5th 2017 – Ridge and Valley Charter School

Ridge and Valley Charter School will be hosting an Information Night on Thursday, October 5, 2017, at 7:00 pm for prospective families interested in learning more about the school. If you or someone you know would like to consider RVCS as an option for your child’s education, please contact Jen Ross at 908-362-1114 to RSVP for the event.

How Children Learn Best

Children are born with an immense potential to learn, explore, connect and grow joyfully in the region and the social context in which they live. A Ridge and Valley education is an experience of emergence, wonder, support and guidance that allows young people to grow into the fullest expression of their interests, passions and joys so they become self-directed, confident, responsible and informed adults. On this journey, children build cross-discipline skills that integrate subject matter through hands-on experiential activities that activate a wide range of sensibilities, skills and awareness.

Our school encourages children to wonder, to think, to discover and to question.

About Ridge and Valley Charter School

Local community members established Ridge and Valley Charter School to pursue innovative and personal excellence oriented teaching methods within the public school system, gaining approval of the school’s charter in 2002 and opening the school for students in the 2004-2005 academic year.

Ridge and Valley Charter School is a public K-8 school of choice that provides students an education for a hopeful sustainable future. Our educational program and curriculum honors children as individuals and emphasizes personal excellence, hands-on experiential education, self-directed and outdoor learning, project-based learning, earth literacy, bioregional studies– all in the context of our 13.7 billion-year-old Universe.

RVCS is a tuition-free public school that follows NJ state education standards and testng requirements within the context of our mission.

Want to Learn More?  RSVP for our next Information Night on Thursday, October 5, 2017, at 7:00 pm by calling Jen Ross @ 908-362-1114

Ridge and Valley Charter School Students Partner with Clean Ocean Action to Help Protect Waterways

Ridge and Valley Charter School Students Partner with Clean Ocean Action to Help Protect Waterways

Throughout this past winter, student scholars at Ridge and Valley Charter School explored ocean currents, climate, and plastic pollution. Students read, researched, and learned about plastic pollution, focusing on single-use plastic items which make their way into our ocean systems. They looked at the policies of a number of other states, as well as other countries, which impose single-use plastic bag bans at grocery stores, restaurants, and retail stores. The students also learned about the proposed bag tax in New Jersey. They then researched the topic of plastic bags and crafted argumentative essays detailing their positions on the issue of a plastic bag ban in New Jersey.

Ridge and Valley Charter School Service Learning Project with Clean Ocean Action

As part of this study, the school partnered with the Sandy Hook based organization Clean Ocean Action, a leading national and regional voice working to protect waterways along the NJ/NY coast using science, law, research, education, and citizen action. The student scientists traveled to Sandy Hook on Friday, April 7, 2017, to complete a service learning project on the beach. They participated in a “beach sweep” to collect and study debris and nonpoint-source polluted garbage brought to shore from coastal currents. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “nonpoint source pollution is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground. As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters and ground waters.” Each piece of debris was identified and documented using data sheets provided by Clean Ocean Action to quantify the different types of pollution washing ashore. Clean Ocean Action creates annual reports detailing the data from clean-ups throughout the year which can be found on their website.

RVCS

Real-World Experience Connected to Academic Studies

Braving high winds, cold temperatures, and rain, the 24 students collected nearly 200 pounds of debris. The majority of this debris consisted of single-use plastic pieces ranging from bottle caps to straws, including foam pieces of coffee cups. Students also noticed that exposed to the sun and elements, these usually rigid plastic pieces were brittle and, due to the plastic’s ability to photodegrade or break down into small pieces when exposed to sunlight over time, disintegrated into smaller pieces of micro-plastic which were difficult to collect. Studies by the World Economic Forum give estimates that plastic pollution in our oceans will outnumber fish by the year 2050.

This opportunity provided the students with real-world experience connected to their academic studies, a greater sense of purpose for their learning, and opportunities to build skills in math, science, collaboration, and communication while witnessing and experiencing an environmental threat.

A Student Essay Supporting a Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags in New Jersey:

Every year, about one and a half trillion plastic bags are used, as stated by the Environmental Protection Agency. The goal of the EPA is to protect the “health of humans and the environment.” These plastic bags are all single-use, meaning they usually have a one-time use and then are thrown away. A few alternatives would be reusable shopping bags and bringing back your previous single-use plastic bags or paper bags. Banning single-use plastic bags in New Jersey will bring a positive outcome because plastic bags harm wildlife, are virtually indestructible, and manufacturing can damage our air and the environment. Untitled

For instance, plastic bags can float around in the wind because they are so light, getting entangled in bushes, trees, or even animals. They can even be consumed by either land or water species. Others may say that the animals shouldn’t be eating the plastic because it is not their natural diet. However, turtles, especially, will mistake the plastic bags for jellyfish causing blockages in their digestive system. According to the center for Biological Diversity, which is helping to conserve the land and waters for all different species, “100,000 marine animals die annually from plastic bags.” It can take a tremendous amount of money to just clean up the plastic bags and other littered garbage in our waterways, costing $428 million a year for the state of California, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council whose mission is to allow everybody to clean air, water, and wild. This is important because it could take a significant toll on the animals of New Jersey, endangering their health and their environment. We need to help by cleaning up the plastic bags, in order to make a safe habitat for the animals and plants.

In addition, plastic is virtually indestructible because it photodegrades from the sun. According to the documentary Plastic Paradise by Angela Sun, a film about how plastic affects animals and plants health, but also her experience learning about where plastic is created from, “photodegrade” means the plastic breaks into smaller and smaller fragments of plastic when exposed to sunlight. This can be even more harmful to the animals because it can be easier for them to consume and digest and then pass its way up the food chain. It is easy to think that plastic, like almost everything else, biodegrades, but when you look at the facts, it shows that it never actually goes away. It is another great reason to ban single-use plastic bags in New Jersey because this plastic could eventually make its way into our bodies.

In fact, plastic bags are made from fossil fuels which are non-renewable. They also take large amounts of water and energy to manufacture and ship them. During the process, billions of pound of waste and millions of tons of CO2 are left each year in the United States.  ReuseThisBag.com, has been around for ten years and makes bags that are reusable. They state that each minute, we use one million plastic bags. All of this adds up over time because these plastic bags all need to go somewhere. Critics of the plastic bag ban may argue that most people recycle their plastic bags, however, according to Plastic Paradise, only one out seven bags are recycled, whereas the others are thrown away, ending up in landfills or as litter.

All in all, we should particularly ban single-use plastic bags in New Jersey because plastic bags harm the wildlife, are virtually indestructible, and manufacturing can damage our air and environment. By banning single-use plastic bags in our state it will help the environment, save money by stopping the manufacturing of bags, and we will minimize plastic pollution in New Jersey. If we don’t start banning single-use plastic bags now, there will be an enormous amount of plastic bags in the future, particularly in our rivers and ocean, not just in our landfills. Together, we can help support this idea by reducing the amount of any kinds of single-use plastics and stick to reusable bags.

7th Grade Student

Ridge and Valley Charter School

1234 State Route 94

Blairstown, New Jersey 07825

 

Student-Led Market Raises Money for Overnight Expedition – Ridge and Valley Charter School

Student-Led Market Raises Money for Overnight Expedition – Ridge and Valley Charter School

Ridge and Valley Charter School Students put their Education to Good Use

Ridge and Valley Charter School (RVCS) 2nd and 3rd grade Nova Team students have been planning for their upcoming overnight expedition to Pocono Environmental Expedition Center (PEEC) in Dingman’s Ferry, PA.  They successfully developed a strategy to raise money for the trip by hosting a student-led market where they sold handmade goods to the school community.  This was a great lesson in planning and execution for these young entrepreneurs.

Overnight expeditionary experiences like the PEEC trip are embedded into the RVCS curriculum, from kindergarten through graduation, and offer some of the most important and exciting opportunities to its students.  Not only are these experiences a critical element in the development of self-confidence and a love of the natural world, but they also provide a rich, integrated way to learn and apply the skills and knowledge that the students are studying throughout the year.

Creating a school market to fundraise for the trip was closely tied to the mission and foundational principles of the school which includes student-led and experiential learning, integrated curriculum and ecological literacy.

Student-Led Learning

RVCS students are placed at the center of their own learning and are empowered to make decisions for themselves.  RVCS and families partner to fund student trips.  The Nova Team students decided to offset the family cost and were inspired to fundraise for their special trip.  They came up with the idea to create a student-led market at the school where they could sell handmade items to students, families and teachers.  They took the idea from inception to fruition with great success.

Student led market Ridge and Valley Charter School

Experiential Learning

Art, crafting, building and creating are woven into the curriculum at RVCS so the students are adept at making beautiful creations that could be appealing to consumers.  The students, in a circle meeting format unique to the school, brainstormed what they wanted to make and how to structure the market.  They planned, organized, agreed on prices and set up the market as if they were the owners of a real store.  They then worked at the market, interacted with customers, communicated about the products and handled the financial side of receiving and counting money.

Experiential learning like this occurs when students are placed in a situation where they think and interact, learn in and from a real-world environment.  While traditional teaching and learning are typically teacher-directed, content-driven, text-oriented and classroom-based, experiential learning involves active participation of the student in planning, development and execution of learning activities, is shaped by the problems and pressures arising from the real-world situation and occurs most effectively outside the classroom.

Student led market Ridge and Valley Charter School

Integrated Curriculum

Students at RVCS build cross-discipline skills that integrate subject matter through hands-on experiential activities that activate a wide range of sensibilities, skills and awareness.  It’s a way of teaching and learning that does not depend on the usual division of knowledge into separate subjects.

The students used their math, language arts, science, and communication skills simultaneously in just about every aspect of the market. Much of what they sold had a connection to what they learned this year.  Some of the items they decided to make were bird feeders, bee blocks, a class recipe book, star braid looms made from wood harvested at the school, natural dryer balls, herb infused lip balm, gardener’s hand salve and weather wands, a result of their study of weather cycles, local bird habitats, cooking, gardening, math and language arts.

Student led market Ridge and Valley Charter School

Ecological Literacy

Ridge and Valley Charter School believes that it is possible to create a more ecologically sustainable future and that our children have a right to a planet of pure air, clean water, a vibrant natural world and a more just and equitable human community.

In keeping with the mission of the school, the students wanted the items they made to be composed of natural, organic and locally sourced ingredients as well as donated items that could be reused and repurposed.  They recognized that these items are more sustainable and better for the planet.  Some of the materials even came from the school land.

Nova Market was a success!

The student-led market was a success with almost all of the items selling out.  Their goal was to raise $300 however, the market was so popular that the students raised over $1000.  There was a great sense of accomplishment and so much learned along the way.  

Information Night and Open House Schedule for Ridge and Valley Charter School

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Ridge and Valley Charter School will be hosting an series of Information Night and Open House events for the 2016-2017 school year for prospective families interested in learning more about the school.

Open House:

Wednesday, April 5, 2017 830AM-1030AM

Information Night:

Thursday, May 4, 2017 7PM-8PM

If you or someone you know would like to consider RVCS as an option for your child’s education, please contact Jen Ross at 908-362-1114 to RSVP for the event.

Student-Led Conferences at Ridge & Valley Charter School 

Student-Led Conferences at Ridge & Valley Charter School 

Our Annual Student-Led Conferences are One of the Many Things that make Ridge & Valley Charter School Unique

Student-led conferences are meetings with students, parents, and teachers (called “guides” at RVCS) during which a student shares work and discusses his/her progress. The intention is for the student to lead the meeting from start to finish. Student involvement in a conference makes learning active, provides opportunities for students to evaluate their own performance, and encourages students to take responsibility for their learning. Having students take charge of the conference makes them more accountable for what they are learning.

Prior to conferences, the students, with guide support, collect work that reflects what they have learned. Students then evaluate their work and, as they conduct their conference, explain skills they have learned and share goals they have set for themselves. While a guide may serve as the conference facilitator, the student will lead the conference.

Student-led conferences offer the opportunity for students to play an important part in their own educational process. This approach fits beautifully with the holistic, student-centered focus of our mission that recognizes children are capable and responsible.

The Student-Led Conference Format Offers Many Benefits to Students, Including:

  • Having greater accountability for their learning
  • Learning to think about and evaluate their own progress
  • Gaining a greater commitment to school work and learning
  • Building self-confidence and self-esteem
  • Encouraging student/parent communication
  • Building communication and critical thinking skills
  • Placing greater responsibility on the student
  • Allowing students to become more actively involved

Families Benefit from this Format as Well as it:

  • Helps families learn more about their child’s learning and skills
  • Offers an opportunity for families to help their child set positive goals
  • Encourages active family participation in their child’s learning

Conferences are a wonderful opportunity for families to see, hear and experience their child’s learning and progress.  To learn more about our holistic assessment practices visit our website.

Exploring the Power of Reading at Ridge & Valley Charter School

Exploring the Power of Reading at Ridge & Valley Charter School

From a young age students at Ridge and Valley Charter School develop a love of reading.  There is a strong focus on becoming confident readers and writers.  In a recent unit kindergarten students have been excited to use their reading “super powers” to help develop their reading skills.

Ridge & Valley’s Reading and Writing Model Inspired by Columbia University

At Ridge and Valley Charter School, a Reading and Writing Workshop model inspired by Columbia University‘s Teachers College Reading and Writing Project is used. There is a focus on developing students’ reading, writing and speaking skills within their own areas of interest.  Doing so in the context of real and practical applications of those skills allows the learner to see the difference that their efforts can make.  Instruction is embedded in content, topics and books chosen by the students and is differentiated based on their abilities.  This model helps Ridge and Valley Charter School students develop a deep rooted strength in reading and writing that serves them well in high school and beyond.